Sunday, September 26, 2021
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Act now, Johnson, or the EU will plunge Northern Ireland back into mayhem

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NORTHERN Ireland has been set back decades by the EU’s weaponisation of the Irish border, which is easily sorted out by digital methods.  

Ruth Dudley Edwards, writing in the Telegraph, merely told the truth when she said the trouble now erupting in the province is wholly and solely the fault of Brussels. But, of course, Brussels needed a compliant UK government to cave in to its adamant refusal to use a modern smart border.  

As Catherine McBride points out in Briefings for Britain, there was already a smart border before Brexit, for VAT and other purposes. 

Theresa May should never have buckled and Boris Johnson likewise. But they did, and Johnson has signed a treaty, with no consent from the population affected, sundering them from their mother country.   

In passing, I wonder whether the human rights lawyers should not be brought in now to contest the Northern Ireland Protocol. We hear much of migrants having the ‘right’ to a state and even terrorists acting against their state being non-deportable because of this right.  

As things stand, Northern Ireland is in a limbo, detached economically from its state, and without a vote on how its people are to be treated in terms of imports even as important as medicines.  

A foreign power, now shown to be hostile and willing to bare its teeth, in the words of its leader Ursula Von Der Leyen, controls what can be imported to the folk of Northern Ireland. I suggest that the nearest analogy to this is the fate of the German port of Danzig in the 1919 Versailles Treaty, given into the administration of the League of Nations.   

But Johnson and, astonishingly Brandon Lewis, the man given the job of Northern Ireland Secretary, continue to say that the protocol is the answer not the problem, and that just a bit of sandpapering is needed to shape this virtual annexation into something acceptable.  

The Cabinet knew the protocol would cause major inflammation in the body politic; that the Internal Market Act screamed out that Northern Ireland would be controlled by the EU and that the UK needed ‘insurance’ against vicious EU implementation of the protocol.  

Typically, this Act proved an empty gesture. Michael Gove resiled from it, having endorsed it and then submitted himself to the excruciating demands of EU commissioner ‘Big Maroš’ Šefčovič for a maximal implementation of the protocol, keeping out sausages and rose bushes, etc.  

Gove placed the UK’s neck beneath the EU jackboot and his promises of a ‘light touch’ vanished. Happily, Brexit negotiator Lord Frost then intervened and waived the protocol rules for six months. But this led to the EU taking legal action, which is still in place and will remain so while ‘necessary’.  

The jackboot will tread harder and harder to force the UK into full ‘alignment’ with all EU regulations. This project is going well, and the UK is making no divergencies from the EU’s diktat. 

The loyalists now have nowhere to go apart from the streets. Johnson’s personal guarantee to First Minister Arlene Foster and the people of Northern Ireland was cynically broken when he signed the protocol, and that spelled the end of Foster’s leadership.  

One commentator believes that this brutal UK sundering of Northern Ireland from the mainland was a deliberate decision to back a united Ireland, bit by bit. 

And where is the evidence to contradict that thesis? After all, in the 1938 Munich Crisis, the UK washed its hands of Czechoslovakia’s  Sudetenland, handing it to Hitler. 

The Foreign Office has the reputation of the deepest political cynicism and Europhilia. Let’s not forget it refused to grant a single fishing licence for the Falklands waters to a British-based firm, when Johnson was Foreign Secretary. The current Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, seems to have sold out to this anti-British orientation fairly quickly.  

One also has to ask about the ultra-casual approach to the Union as regards the Scottish National Party threat. It was imperative to get Scottish fishing grounds fully back from EU control – but no, far better to give the EU all it demanded through the appalling ‘deal’ selling out what we could have gained under a Brexit based on World Trade Organisation rules.  

What now in Northern Ireland? Growing ferment and civil unrest. Johnson, Gove, Raab and Remainer Whitehall are simply going to keep the pressure cooker going.  

Johnson says he might trigger Article 16, which enables either party to take unilateral action if the implementation of the agreement gives rise to negative consequences. But at present he is happy to issue hand-wringing remarks and keep within EU dictation. We know he will not do the right thing and keep his promises, nor will Gove or the rest.  

Loyalist protests are set to continue long-term as the Unionists find no alternative recourse but to take to the streets, with the UK government, the EU, and the Irish Republic all putting pressure on their very identity as a British province loyal to the Crown. 

This strategy is, as Jenny McCartney’s forensic analysis in UnHerd puts it, encouraged and even anticipated by the text of the protocol itself.  

She says: ‘By showing that Unionist concerns will be downgraded rather than run any risk of Republican violence, the British Government and the EU have now created an awful incentive for loyalist paramilitaries to demonstrate an equivalent level of threat.  

‘That incentive is not just implied, but actually written into Article 16 of the protocol itself. There, it states that UK or the EU can unilaterally suspend aspects of the protocol’s operation if it is causing “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist”.  

‘That’s the political equivalent of a teacher telling a delinquent school pupil that they can only get out of a locked classroom by setting it alight.  

‘The loyalist paramilitaries – whether by instinct or conscious design – will now make it their business to create “serious societal difficulties” that are “liable to persist”. It’s a terrible script. And unless Britain and the EU can somehow rewrite it, fast, it’s going to make for a very long, hot summer.’   

The EU, Dublin, and the UK cannot deny that the protocol is the cause for the pain inflicted on the loyalists – it is anticipated in the text itself.  

Article 16 must be legally invoked by the UK, or by the Irish Republic, as it is precisely in the text for this situation – which the protocol itself causes. It breaches the Good Friday Agreement by not seeking the consent of the loyalist community at all, and ignoring its clear rejection.  

The EU has already invoked Article 16 to stop Covid vaccines being moved into Northern Ireland from the Republic, showing Brussels has no problem with a border, indeed was desperate for one, for 12 hours at least.  

Johnson is now duty-bound to trigger Article 16. It predicts what is happening, caused what is happening and tells the parties what to do if the protocol is stoking tribal hate again. The protocol is surely nullifying the Good Friday Agreement.  

The recent meeting of Lord Frost and Maroš Šefčovičresulted in no resolution to this crisis. The EU has merely doubled down on its refusal of a reasonable interpretation of customs checks between Northern Ireland and mainland UK, maximising the desired inflammatory volatility for the loyalists.  

EU propaganda is still grotesquely asserting that the protocol is the solution to the problem, which it is causing. The EU is now one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, taking peace from Europe.  

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Timothy Bradshaw
Timothy Bradshaw is a Theological lecturer and Anglican clergyman

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